Diana Jue-Rajasingh

A Quick Thought: On Indian Democracy

Posted in Fulbright, India, Traveling by Diana on December 29, 2012

This is a very quick thought, but I’m recalling one conversation that I had with a private real estate developer and another that I had with someone who was in the IAS but then quit to enter the private sector. They both had general comments on Indian democracy and its inability to direct the government toward decisions that would be “good” for the entire country.

In their eyes, politicians promise a lot of things to the people to chase the “vote banks,” and as a result, most policies here are envisioned for the short-term and cater to the bulk of the population. Now, most of the population is rural, agricultural, more or less illiterate, and opposed to change. They’re easily won over by promises (this I have seen through my other work in Tamil Nadu – families are still holding out for free LPG from a particular political party that’s been promising it for five years). The rural population isn’t as supportive of policies that support industry or the foreign investment that is required to spur the industrial sector here.

Ultimately, it is the people who are supposed to hold politicians accountable. The people are consumers of public services, and they pay with their votes. But if the public isn’t well-educated or informed about policies that would help them in the long-run, then there’s no one holding politicians accountable for these types of decisions that may hurt now but are beneficial for the country’s future.

Well, I’m not well-versed on Indian government or democracy, so I don’t know how much this weight this issue holds. Nor do I know where you’d begin to address this problem. I mean, how do encourage decision makers to have a long-term vision when they’re not held accountable for that long-term vision? Or, how can you translate the long-term into something that helps them win votes in the short-run?


One Response

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  1. Monik said, on June 26, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Dear Diana,

    My name is Monik Markus and I am an American hoping to get a Fulbright research grant to study in India. I was browsing through the past Fulbright grantees to research their topics and found yours to be the most connected to my interests as they relate to social policy. I am more interested in education but would still benefit from a short discussion about how you developed your methodology when applying for Fulbright. I am hoping to do research on Indian education initiatives that serve Afghans and how these programs help increase regional security. The research would answer this overarching question and look at things like: what are characteristics of good educational programs that increase the two country’s perspectives of each other? How does this change affect the level of security in the region? How do these educational programs and investment in Afghanistan’s education help India’s own security? etc. I have many great questions and am now working to outline my methodology. I would appreciate an experienced researcher’s guidance on how to best go about this. (The reason I am focused also on Afghanistan is because I currently work at the Afghan embassy in DC as the Ambassador’s assistant.)

    I am an avid Tumblr fan and you can find me here at halfhours.tumblr.com or email me at markusm89@gmail.com.

    I hope to hear back!

    Monik Markus

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